MI5 veteran Fleming to take over embattled GCHQ spy agency

This file photo taken on Jan. 8. 2015 by Britain's MI5 Security Service shows an undated image of Andrew Parker the Director General of Britainís domestic security service MI5. (AP)
Updated 19 March 2017

MI5 veteran Fleming to take over embattled GCHQ spy agency

LONDON: The deputy director-general of Britain’s internal security service is to become the new head of intelligence eavesdropping service, the Sunday Times newspaper reported without citing the source of its information.
The Sunday Times reported MI5’s Jeremy Fleming, who it said had worked at the intelligence agency for at least 20 years, would be named the head of Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) this week.
The previous head of GCHQ, Robert Hannigan, who had been in post since 2014, said in January he was stepping down for family reasons.
Last week, in a rare public statement, GCHQ dismissed claims made on a US television station that it helped former President Barack Obama eavesdrop on Donald Trump after last year’s US presidential election.
On Friday, Trump stood by the unproven claims and shrugged off a dispute with Britain over the notion their spy agency had a hand in it.
“Jeremy will be expected to make a trip to the US very early on to seek reassurances from our partners,” the Sunday Times reported an anonymous source as saying.
“It will be important to remind our partners there that more consideration and respect need to be afforded to the intelligence communities by the Trump administration.”
GCHQ could not immediately be reached for comment.
Prime Minister Theresa May’s spokesman said earlier that the White House has assured her that it would not repeat allegations that GCHQ had helped former President Obama eavesdrop on Trump.
The spokesman said the charge, made on Tuesday by Fox News analyst Andrew Napolitano, that GCHQ had helped Obama wire tap Trump, was “ridiculous.”
“We have made clear to the administration that these claims are ridiculous and they should be ignored and we have received assurances that these allegations will not be repeated,” said the spokesman.
On the “Fox & Friends” program, Napolitano, a political commentator and former New Jersey judge, said that rather than ordering US agencies to spy on Trump, Obama had obtained transcripts of Trump’s conversations from GCHQ so there were “no American fingerprints” on it.
White House spokesman Sean Spicer on Thursday quoted Napolitano’s comments about GCHQ when he spoke to the media.
A White House official said British officials had expressed their concern to senior Trump aides but the official declined to explicitly apologize for Spicer’s citation of the Fox News allegations.
Separately, in London, a UK government spokesman said: “Our ambassador has been in touch with Sean Spicer and others at the White House. Our national security advisers have been in touch as well. We have made clear these allegations are utterly ridiculous, and have received reassurances that they will not be repeated.”
Earlier, in a rare public statement, the GCHQ, Britain’s equivalent of the US National Security Agency which monitors overseas electronic communications, said the claims should be ignored.
“Recent allegations made by media commentator Judge Andrew Napolitano about GCHQ being asked to conduct ‘wire tapping’ against the then President Elect are nonsense,” said a spokesman for GCHQ, which never usually comments on criticism of its work beyond saying it always operates under a strict legal framework.
Reuters reported earlier this week that an unidentified British security official had denied the allegations about Trump.
GCHQ, based in western England, is one of three main British spy agencies alongside the MI6 Secret Intelligence Service and the MI5 Security Service.
GCHQ has a close relationship with the NSA, as well as the eavesdropping agencies of Australia, Canada and New Zealand in a consortium called “Five Eyes.”


Sri Lanka turns former military air base into third international airport

Updated 18 October 2019

Sri Lanka turns former military air base into third international airport

  • President Sirisena termed the opening of Palaly Airport for commercial flights “a significant landmark of the development program commenced after the conclusion of the conflict.”

COLOMBO: The Palaly Airport, a former military air base, has been turned into Jaffna International Airport, the third gateway to the island.

The new airport was inaugurated by the island’s President, Maithripala Sirisena, while Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and his Cabinet ministers also witnessed the ceremony.

The refurbished airport, costing $13.8 million, has a 1,400-meter long runway to facilitate ATR 72 aircraft, which can carry 70 passengers. It will later be expanded to 3,500 meters to handle large passenger aircraft such as the Airbus A320 and A321.

Located approximately 16 km north of Jaffna, Palaly was a Sri Lanka Air Force base and a domestic airport. The airport was built by the British Royal Air Force during the WWII.

After independence, Palaly Airport was used as the second international airport of the country for flights to southern India before the civil war began, almost 40 years ago.

President Sirisena termed the opening of Palaly Airport for commercial flights “a significant landmark of the development program commenced after the conclusion of the conflict.”

Prime Minister Wickremesinghe said the upgraded Jaffna International Airport marked a “turning point” in Sri Lankan aviation, which would be “an asset for the entire nation.”

“The airport will deploy regional airliners and be elevated to an Asian travel destination,” the premier said.

“The airport, which is expected to accommodate direct flights between Sri Lanka and India, will contribute toward promoting the tourism industry in the north. This will play an important role in the economic growth and overall development of the country,” he added.  

The service will be made available first for Indian destinations, and later for flights to Australia, China, Japan, the Middle East and some European cities.                                                      

Transport and Civil Aviation Minister Arjuna Ranatunga said Palaly airport was developed into Jaffna International Airport in a very short period of time.

“We were able to overcome the challenge successfully due to the sincere assistance we received from all institutes and stakeholders contributed to the development,” he said.

The minister said that in addition to Colombo and Jaffna international airports, three more airports in Sri Lanka will be upgraded to international airports, such as Ratmalana and Batticaloa.

“The opening of Jaffna airport for regional scheduled commercial passenger operations will undoubtedly enhance the quality of life of people in the area, with improved connectivity and accessibility that the airport brings to the region. It would also help reduce the current congestion at Bandaranaike International Airport and also eliminate the difficulties of the people in the north have in coming to Colombo Airport,” said H. M. C.Nimalsiri, director general of civil aviation.